Essential guide to working from home
Working from home due to the Coronavirus outbreak? Covid-19 will transform work and travel in the UK, according to this BBC article.
Aside from this, if you’re part of a growing number of travel companies who now employ homeworkers, our essential guide to working from home in travel (and other industries) will prove useful. Progressive Travel Recruitment has had homeworking teams for many years and we’ve learned the pros and the pitfalls. In our opinion, the multiple benefits of being part of a travel homeworking team are self evident.
My colleagues and I have put together this guide for those who work from home in travel jobs, either full-time or part-time. It’s full of tips, advice and benefits for homeworkers and those who manage a homeworking team.
Whether you’re already a travel homeworker, someone suddenly finding themselves having to work from home due to Coronavirus, or are considering making the move from office to working from home, this is a must-read.
BENEFITS: What’s so good about working from home in travel
A State of Remote Work study by Owl Labs (US video conferencing company) questioned 1,202 full-time workers, of whom 48% work remotely once a week, and 30% work remotely full-time. 83% of the homeworking participants said working from home makes them happier. 81% of the total surveyed said the ability to work from home would help them deal with work and life conflicts. The people who worked from home full-time were happy with their jobs 22% more often than the office workers. So, happiness and improving your work-life balance are clear benefits of homeworking. This was a US survey, where homeworking is widespread, though the UK and many other countries are catching up.
Working at home offers the flexibility to do small home-based tasks during breaks in the day, saving hassle and time later. For example, you can put a load of washing on, do quick evening-meal prep, or let in repair people. These jobs pile up and take up valuable headspace if you work in an office
Some homeworkers start early and finish early, or take a longer lunch break from time to time and catch up later in the day. This must be negotiated with your company, and depends on your role. Often travel agency jobs based at home require fixed hours. But the higher up the ladder you go, the more flexibility you usually get.
You get much more done when you aren’t commuting. All our homeworking travel colleagues say they’re more productive working on their own, without office clamour. While keeping in contact with remote colleagues throughout the day is very important, it’s easier to concentrate on the travel job at home with minimum disruption. For us, interviewing travel candidates in the peace of your home is easier than being in a bustling office.
As a travel business, we have global clients and candidates, so flexible working from home or in our serviced offices (when open) means we can contact people abroad at a time to suit them, providing a boutique service. If you need to work a little later to finish something off it’s easy because you’re already at home.
Here at Progressive Travel Recruitment, we have the tools to work from anywhere, so if we fancy working in a shared space, café or hotel for a day or two, we can, when everything opens up again. Our MD James Roberts likes to stay in places where he feels he is more productive, but for now he’s staying at home, obviously.
Fewer work outfits
Although we would always advocate getting showered and dressed every day before work, you definitely don’t need so many smart work clothes, which saves money and ironing time. Some of our homeworking travel colleagues say they also save money on make-up as they wear less when they’re working from home.
There are far fewer distractions at home. No office gossip is a huge benefit, and also makes the whole team work more professionally.
Dogs prefer being with their owners than being left at home alone to wait for a dogwalker. Many of us homeworkers love that we can walk our dogs throughout the day, getting exercise and fresh air. Directors Tony Macdonald and James Roberts even walks the dogs of nearby friends whose pets are stuck at home.
Fewer people commuting is good for the planet.
Working from home as a director or boss can bring a welcome degree of autonomy. For other homeworkers, being trusted to work effectively from home requires confidence in their ability from directors. That degree of autonomy or confidence is motivating.
Working from home allows parents to do school pick-ups and drop offs without a great rush as they don’t then have to commute (at time of writing, the majority of schools are closed). Our staff with older children say their kids enjoy the fact that a parent is at home; they have a quick after-school chat and break, then everyone gets back to their own pursuits.
Not paying for after-school care or breakfast clubs can save a lot of cash, and gives valuable extra time with children at the beginning and end of the day, when you would have been commuting.
Work life balance
Being able to easily go for a lunchtime run or dog walk is a huge benefit of homeworking. You can also easily have a post-run shower and start again refreshed. This is great for mental health, and a less stressed work life. Getting little home jobs done during the day lowers work-life stress, too.
Having home comforts nearby makes the working day more enjoyable, even if it’s as simple as using your own coffee maker, a warm pet sleeping at your feet, or the chance to wear more informal clothes.
Saves the company money
Having travel workers at home means less need for big office space, which saves a company money. It also allows the company to have a wider reach when hiring.
STRUCTURE: How to organise your day as a homeworker
One common problem of homeworkers is that they can work too many hours. Here’s our team advice on how to structure working at home in a travel job to get the most out of it, and avoid overworking or wasting time.
Routine is critical for homeworkers. Always shower and get dressed. Don’t work in your pyjamas – it’s not good for your mental health. And don’t work in bed, as it’s not good for your body. Set work times and break times and stick to them – of course, flexibility means sometimes you may start earlier or finish earlier, but in general stick to a simple routine. Director Fiona says her first call is at 8am as she believes the early bird catches the worm. These early starts are much easier when you’re a homeworker. Find what works for you. Plan your working day with lists and meetings, and stay in regular contact with colleagues.
Managers – Ensure you’re in regular structured contact with all homeworking colleagues. Successful homeworkers require careful supportive management.
Alerts for breaks
Set Outlook or Siri alerts that remind you to take a break. Some of our colleagues use Apple watches or fitness apps that remind them to move. At Progressive Travel Recruitment, we are about to introduce an enforced policy of regular breaks and no email, phone or Skype communication outside of Monday-Friday (8am – 6pm) unless it is very urgent. Don’t feel guilty about taking breaks – they are crucial for a healthy mind and body.
Be kind to yourself. Set targets and give yourself small rewards when you reach them. James Roberts says, if business is quiet on a Friday and he has met his objectives, he finishes early and rewards himself with a round of golf or a meet-up with friends. He is still contactable, but has done away with the guilt surrounding taking time to do the things he loves. Again, he’s currently staying at home, like everyone else.
Some friends or family assume that homeworkers are constantly available for a coffee, chat, or favour. They wouldn’t do the same for an office worker, so you must set boundaries and be clear with them about when you can’t be disturbed. Learn to say no to requests that take you away from work.
Social media blockers
Putting blocks on social media can help if you’re prone to time-wasting or procrastinating by scrolling social channels. Turn off inessential notifications, and set a short slot during a break to check news or social media.
Working at home can be great for healthy eating and saving money, because you can avoid readymade food or expensive coffees. Plan ahead when you do the weekly shop, buying foods you like that are good for you. Working from home is a good way to use up leftovers as lunch, too, meaning less food waste.
Some of our team who work at home in travel, say that they now do more at weekends because they’re at home all week. Office workers often want to flop at the weekend as they’ve been out all week. For homeworkers, planning activities or time with friends is a good idea. This makes weekends more exciting and more social, aiding that all-important work-life balance.
TIPS: What travel homeworkers and managers of homeworkers need to know
Communicate regularly with colleagues and managers, and constantly ask for assistance. This will make you a more successful homeworker.
Managers – Make it clear how important communication is, and set up clear lines of communication. Skype call colleagues at least once a week. Set targets and offer praise. Always encourage colleagues to ask for help. Homeworkers can feel isolated without a support system in place.
You need to love what you do, so be proactive to make work fun. Just because you are a homeworker it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your colleagues. Use chat groups to share information about your lives, but don’t let this take over your day. Separate social and work chat groups.
Managers – Make sure your homeworkers don’t miss out on fun events, when they’re allowed to happen again. Set up regular real-life get-togethers which are part work and part fun. As a company we support the charity Reuben’s Retreat, and attend events in support of them, which are worthwhile and bring the team together socially.
Continuously add or embrace new ideas that could benefit yourself and the company. Just because you’re a homeworker doesn’t mean you’re not part of company development.
Managers – Make sure all homeworkers are included in strategy information and meetings, so that everyone feels included in the ethos of the company and understands its direction.
Eat the frog
Eating the frog basically means don’t procrastinate. Do the most important jobs first; don’t put them off. Stress makes you stupid – if you are spiralling out of control on a busy day, then take a step back, make a list and eat the frog – ie do the big thing that needs doing first. Director Fiona says she finds it’s usually leaving the frog uneaten that makes people stressed.
Have an office
Even if you only have a kitchen office, make it a defined pleasing space with a good chair, enough light and your computer set up so it doesn’t give you back or neck strain. Try not to work on sofas, as this is bad for your body. Click here for advice on how to assess your work station. Close the door when you’ve finished for the day, or put your kitchen office away. Make clear lines between work time and off time. Put your work phone down, too.
Make notes and to-do lists. Our colleague Lucy says she makes sure daily chores are done first thing, such as clearing out email, updating work social media channels, interview prep calls, and applications. This then allows her to focus on the day ahead. Set an objective for the day. Bianca segments time for each task. Simon has a Work in Progress file that he is constantly updating. Fiona also advises finishing the day by writing a new to-do list for the following morning.
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